#AlternativeFacts Podcast: Zola Jesus Finds Salvation & Inspiration in the Wilderness

Zola Jesus
Tim Saccenti

Zola Jesus

"The deeper into woods, into nature I get, the more connected I feel to the world."

Nika Danilova had to go home; both to craft her harrowing new album Okovi, but also to avoid self-destruction. 

The spellbinding electronic artist recorded her fifth album as Zola Jesus nestled in the woods of rural Wisconsin where she grew up. “The deeper into woods, into nature I get, the more connected I feel to the world,” Danilova says on this week’s #AlternativeFacts podcast. After exploring mainstream accessibility with 2014’s Taiga, the 28-year old Danilova left Seattle, rejoined Sacred Bones Records -- the iconic outsider label that first discovered her -- and built a house near her family, on their land near Merrill, Wisconsin. But Okovi (meaning "shackles" in Slavic) doesn’t sound like retreating; it’s a gripping, core-rattling listen, one that maps out new territory in her habitat of operatic vocals, riveting strings, and dark, daunting beats. 

“With Okovi, I was trying to recreate that feeling when I’m at home, in nature, when I’m feeling most at peace,” she says. “I was trying to find some sort of core, an anchor with my music because so much chaos was happening around me.” 

Later on, she opens up: "Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve tried establish within myself a sense of belonging… Maybe it’s a mid, late-20s thing. The way that I was living emotionally wasn’t sustainable, it was unhealthy and I was self-destructive. I needed to change the way I thought and my approach to life... I’m still extremely angry -- I have a lot of anger -- but I’m working through that… I feel zen, I can handle it now."

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Listen to the podcast below for a trip into the world of Zola Jesus -- why it's awesome when avant garde artists crash the top 40, what it was like to collaborate with M83 and the thrill of headlining this year's Sacred Bones 10-year anniversary concert. We also talk about wandering through the woods, a lot. While you listen, we highly suggest scrolling through Danilova’s Instagram feed for an immersive visual companion to the kind of blissful seclusion we’re pondering. 

#AlternativeFacts is a weekly Billboard podcast devoted to all things alternative music. Click here to subscribe to the #AlternativeFacts Podcast on iTunes. Let us know what you think on Twitter (@cpayneonaplane) and by rating the podcast on iTunes.